Being a nutritionist, people often come to me in search of an advice because they feel they’ve run out of energy and have too much stress over their head, which, given to current social circumstances, is no wonder at all. The result of this stress is manifested as fatigue, exhaustion, lethargy, poor concentration, a lack of motivation, in fact, any kind of stress-related symptom described here feels pretty much the same. In order to get back on track and be yourself again, many of you will turn to food, for instance, sweets, coffee, cigarettes or if you are a living-on-the-edge type of person, a true adrenaline addict, to something more challenging like work (workaholic would be a term) who also never forgets to have some fun along the way. However, all these attempts to cope with stress often end up bringing more stress making you lose your ground so you suddenly find yourself being on a dangerous roller coaster of your life from which you cannot find a way to get off.
Stress is one of the most common health issues related to a wide range of different diseases. Each time something disturbs us, a chain of chemical reactions happens in our body. For instance, suppose that a certain situation demands our full attention – like when we are crossing the road and all at once we see a car coming too close to us, or we have some unpaid bills or in general, have a massive debt to pay off in a short period of time, or the atmosphere at work is far from inspiring, creative and intellectually supportive. All these are very stressful situations which make our body to response in an adequate way – to stimulate adrenaline glands to produce extra adrenaline, leading to the following: in a few seconds the heart begins to beat very fast, breathing accelerates, glucose levels elevate, muscles start to contract (muscle cramps) and pupils begin to constrict – in other words – you are on the edge. Probably, as me, you are very much familiar with this feeling; even now I feel the adrenaline passing right through me because I’m nervous at writing on the subject so familiar to everyone, yet so different.
Still, not everything is so black, and here are some things you probably didn’t know. The level of adrenaline in an average person who travels to work and gets stuck in traffic jam, and let’s be honest, this happens on a daily basis, is sufficient to run 2 kilometers! Actually, this is how much glucose is being released from the breakdown of glycogen (functions as long-term energy storage) found in the liver and muscles. For muscles to get the necessary “fuel”, the pancreas secretes two hormones – insulin and glucagon. Insulin helps release that “fuel” from the blood while glucagon raises the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream if glucose levels become too low. The described processes here are actually the consequences of stress. And this leads to another question: where does the extra energy that body needs to be attentive come from? The answer is: all that energy comes from the energy being released from normal functions of the body like digestion and cell regeneration. In other words, the body puts all normal functions to the very minimum and directs energy that should have been used to complete these functions to somewhere else – to a stress reaction. Therefore, each moment we spend on dealing with stress means there is no (standard) cell regeneration, i. e. leading us to premature ageing! Think what a body goes through if it constantly needs to “pump” a bunch of hormones to regulate glucose levels in the bloodstream which we actually don’t need. Figuratively speaking, it can be compared to a ruined car that was been driven too fast and for too long, so its parts simply wore out way too quickly. Precisely this is the reason why we lose concentration and energy, become distraught, feel fatigue and weariness, especially after a meal, we get cranky and cannot even have a decent sleep because of all worries hanging over the head. And when you finally get some sleep, you find it difficult to get up, you sweat a lot, having troubles with frequent headaches… is there a need to go on with the list? No need, I’m sure. You must’ve been there and experienced at least some symptom of stress. What frequently happens is that in order to get the control over our life and the body, we tend to use stimuli which, unfortunately, only make things worse. In an attempt to solve a problem ASAP, we exaggerate. Chocolate, coffee, various energy drinks, cigarettes, alcohol, to name a few, are only some of the legitimate stimuli which we tend to use more when we are under a stress. To my misfortune, even I use more caffeine than I probably should and neglect an important fact – that stress causes havoc in our body, taking away an enormous amount of energy it needs for normal functioning and washing away valuable nutrients which preserve health.
For this reason, when going through a stress, make sure you energize your body with enough vitamins and minerals, eat healthy as much as possible foods like slow-release carbs which will ensure adequate glucose levels. Avoid stimuli or at least cut them down to a minimum. Nothing is possible without a proper nutrition which will ensure your body gets all necessary to cope better with almost any kind of stress.
Translation: G. Dujmović